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ScienceFebruary 23, 2024

Get on your bike for the climate


How swapping just one trip from car to bike can deliver big carbon savings.

This is an excerpt from our weekly environmental newsletter Future Proof, brought to you by AMP. Sign up here.

“What if I told you there was a magic thing that could boost your health, uplift your mood, is good for the environment and also good for your pocket?” says Christina Sorbello from Love to Ride.

The answer is, of course, cycling. This month the Aotearoa Bike Challenge is encouraging New Zealanders to “ride and shine” – and win prizes for encouraging others to get on their bikes. The challenge is in its seventh year, with more than 100,000 of us saving more than 4 million kg of carbon emissions over that time (on rides for transport purposes, rather than just for fun).

Anyone, no matter their ability, can take part by riding a bike anywhere, anytime during February. Each ride earns points, and more points means more chances to win prizes. “But the big points are for encouraging others to ride with you,” Sorbello explains.

The goal behind the challenge is to help more people “overcome their barriers to get on a bike and give it a go,” says Sorbello. “Our stats show over half (56%) of people who come to the challenge as new riders increase how often they are riding six months after the challenge – so we are sustaining long-term behaviour change.”

For newbies, Sorbello recommends getting started on a fine-weather day on a quiet street or path, then working up from there. Love to Ride offers mini-courses to upskill that take a few minutes to complete. “One of our most popular courses in New Zealand is our Riding in the Rain course,” Sorbello says, adding the e-bikes have been a “gamechanger” for addressing hilly topography.

Of course, if we want more folks on bikes, we need more safe cycling infrastructure. Participating in the challenge can help with this, too. Anonymised trips logged with Love to Ride are compiled into a heat map showing where cyclists are riding. Soon, the app will also include a “Rate your Routes” feature allowing riders to rate stretches of road according to how safe they feel. All this data can be used by planners to make areas better for bikes.

On the Love to Ride website, cyclists share their reasons for riding: “for fun and fitness”, “cheaper than petrol and parking”, “it makes me feel free”. But there’s also a substantial climate benefit: shifting one trip from car to bike each day can slash your emissions by 67%, according to one study.

It’s not too late to take part – there’s one week left in the challenge, and 87,750 km to go to reach the overall goal of 1 million km of cycling for A-to-B transport. Time to get on your bike and ride (and maybe win some sweet prizes).

Keep going!